Musings on Google, Amazon.com, interesting entrepreneurs, happenings in the tech community.
"The Google Guys: Inside the Brilliant Minds of Google Founders Larry Page and Serge Brin" is out in paperback.
"ONE CLICK: JEFF BEZOS AND THE RISE OF AMAZON.COM" arrives Oct. 26
This blog will soon be transferred to my new site, RichardLBrandt.com. Please check it out.
The current buzz is about the coming of the free Kindle.
Well, don't get too excited yet.This isn't new speculation. It just seems to be gaining momentum because some bloggers have recently discovered the idea.
Just so you know, though, I think it's a great idea and a real possibility. I'm just finishing up a book about Jeff Bezos and Amazon, and this seems like just the kind of bold move he might make. He's not afraid to take chances.
Hasn't happened yet. But that doesn't mean it won't.
The buzz started when Walkenbach graphed the declining price of the Kindle, and noticed it was pretty much on a straight-line decline. Straight lines eventually hit the X-axis, which means the price hits zero.
So the price should hit zero in about three months.
Kevin Kelly adjusted the graph with a new data point.
So the price should hit zero in about eight months.
I thought I'd try my own chart, with all the data: The cheapest Kindles at any given time and the dates they were announced. Here it is.
Oops. Not quite a straight line. It seems that John and Kevin neglected to put in all the data points. Like the original price in 2007. Plus, the last data point wasn't available yet. I added a best-fit straight line (linear regression) to my data.
So the price should hit zero in about 15 months. Wanna bet?
I should note the other info from the previous bloggers that led them to believe this would happen.
In August 2010, Kevin Kelly asked Bezos about those unusually straight trendlines. Bezos smiled and said, “Oh, you noticed that.” And then smiled again. Yeah, well, Bezos might say that just to yank his chain.
Michael Arrington quoted “a reliable source” that says Bezos wants to give a free Kindle to every Amazon Prime subscriber (Amazon customers who pay $79 a year to get unlimited free two-day shipping and one-day shipping for $3.99 per item.) Although, as a former real journalist, I have to say that no real journalist would report something like this with only one anonymous source.
Amy Gahran pointed out that the economics of e-book sales might justify a free Kindle. Market researcher Forrester estimates that people bought $1 billion worth of e-books in 2010, and that by 2015, it will grow to $3 billion annually. I bet it'll hit $3 billion by June 2012. Hey, I can guess as well as the next market researcher.
For now, the Kindle still leads the market for e-book readers at its current price. Research company ChangeWave estimates that the Kindle had the largest share of the market in early 2011, at 47 percent. Apple's iPad (which does much more than just read books and is more expensive) had a 32 percent share. The Sony Reader and the Barnes & Noble Nook were laggards, with just five percent and four percent of the market, respectively. However, Amazon had the market almost to itself until the iPad was intoduced, so it looks like it could use more price cuts.
E-books are clearly a huge part of Amazon's future. The question is whether the Kindle itself will be a part of that future. After all, Amazon also provides free applications that allow people to turn their computers and cell phones into e-readers in order to buy and download e-books from Amazon.
If Bezos wants to keep his share of the e-book market, maybe discounting the Kindle to $0 makes more sense than trying to discount the e-books themselves. He's been fighting the publishers to cut the prices, and losing. It's a delicate balance.
But I'm sure Bezos has a flow chart to figure out if it could work.
If it does, go for June 2012. At least I used real data.
Concern about competition. Would give Google 24 percent of mobile ad market. But since all big companies are evil, we can't let it buy anything that would let it take an independent competitor off the market.
What happened to the days when a monopoly was not illegal unless it leverages its monopoly illegally to keep competitors out of the market? What happened to scrutiny of the deal between Microsoft and Yahoo, which takes the #2 search engine out of the market? (Search Engine Land article.)
Oh, yeah, that's right. Microsoft would never try to leverage its monopoly unfairly.
Photographers, illustrators and others want to make sure nobody sees their work again. Google Books could provide them with free marketing by showing off talent that rotting away on library shelves and will never make those artists another dime. Hey, Google, you don't pay, you don't play. Maybe Google can just black out all the art work in the books it scans. Then the artists won't have to worry about it being seen again.
They want tens of thousands of dollars per infringement of each illustration, for which they were originally paid maybe $2,000, tops. Oh, now I see the motivation. Nice scam if you can get it.
Rupert Murdoch is again threatening to block Google from sending readers to his news sites
Mad-Eye Murdy tells the National Press club, "We're going to stop Google and others from taking our content!"
Taking it where, exactly? I thought Google took readers to the full article, not the other way around. Oh, well, we all know, as McMurdy says, that all news sites will charge subscriptions anyway. It's not like you can find the news anywhere else on the Internet.
More to come?
Come on, folks, we've barely scratched the Google logo here. I'm sure we could get another lawsuit or two going.
I know! Google just updated its Maps applet for the Blackberry. (Info Week article) Let's sue Google to stop it from providing apps for mobile phone providers. That'll keep it from getting any more of a monopoly on the Internet mapping market. Then we can sue it again for damaging those smart device suppliers by making them less competitive with Android phones, thus increasing the chances of an Android monopoly.
No news sites were harmed in making this column. Except maybe the Wall Street Journal.
For further articles on Google controversies, please visit RichardLBrandt.com. You can even link to it. I won't sue.
Google, sorry, Topeka, has promised to do that for any U.S. city willing to change its name to Google, sorry, Topeka, wait, I'm confused now. So that city-that-must-not-be-renamed in Kansas obliged, but only for a month.
By Ravi Nagarajan Published on February 7, 2010 at 12:18 am
Mr. Brandt’s book is not as well known as Googled: The End of the World as We Know It which we reviewed in November. However, one can argue that Mr. Brandt succeeds in providing a more vivid background of both founders and he also makes a better effort to draw links between their core values and a number of decisions that were made which may appear “crazy” at first but actually led to Google’s stunning success. It is easy to see in retrospect how conventional thinking could have destroyed Google’s ambitions at several points during the early years. The fact that Mr. Brin and Mr. Page stuck to their core values made all the difference.
Beginning of the decade predictions are wonderfully fun. For the columnists making them.
But they're generally about as accurate as George W. Bush talking about ... well, pretty much anything. Except for those predictions as obvious as a Sunday morning hangover.
And the obvious is boring.
But why shouldn't I have fun at your expense? I'm a journalist. What else have I got to do?
So here's my expert prediction:
The fate of journalism over the next decade!
Ready? Here it comes:
More layoffs and less profit.
Why will will this be? Because media "moguls" like Rupert Murdoch think they can fight the Google News ripoff machine and bypass the Google by hiding content behind Google-proof walls guarded by toll bridges. Take that, Larry and Sergey! Hahaha! You can't make money off me!
I meant the idea, not Mr. Rupert. No, really.
The problem is that everyone in the journalism biz seems to agree with the divine Mr. M., at least to the extent that they believe we should pay subscriptions for online news.
Hogwarts, I say.
Won't work. You'll never keep your story exclusive for more than 27.43 seconds. I've timed it. Why pay to go to a site for a news story that I can find on a bazillion, two hundred thousand and six blogs who've repeated the story? You can't sue 'em all.
Mr. Rupert, Have you ever heard of Salon.com? Tried it. Didn't work. Dropped it.
But wait! There's more! I have another prediction, one of a more enlightened time! The next, next big decade!
Journalism in 2021:
OK, this one is really good:
Real online news, written and reported by real journalists, who get paid real wages, supported by ...
Huh? Wait. What? Everybody knows that nobody makes enough money off advertising to buy enough Preparation H for a year. Am I crazy?
I often ask myself that question.
That's as may be. But I'm telling you, the future of journalism is online, and the future of online journalism is advertising.
The problem is not that advertising-supported news is a bad idea for the 21st Century. It worked for most of the 20th Century.
The problem is that Internet advertising sucks!
Let's go to Salon's home page. Any ads there for >Me<? OK, here we go. Click.
Uh, a pop-up for a free audio book? Miss. (Books are meant to be read, not heard.)
Acid reduction? Miss. (I haven't dropped any in years.)
Berkeley MBAs? Miss. (Ick.)
(I mean, who wants an MBA these days? Who wants an MBA grad to run their company any more? Or their state?
But I digress...)
Technology, yeah, that's the clicker...
I know! Let's go to the 'Tech and Biz' section of Salon in search of ads more interesting to tech readers!
Berkeley MBAs again. Miss again. (Ick again.)
TurboTax. Miss. (Nice try, but I use an accountant. The IRS would never believe my deductions otherwise.)
But wait! What's that over to the right? Ads by Pulse 36C:
Teeth whitener discovered by a mom. Miss. How a mom lost 57 pounds. Miss.
OK, and I'm insulted by the implications. I'm not a mom.
And how'd they get the name 36C?
But wait, there's one more more...
Aha! Something else, at the bottom. Ads by Google:
Get Nexus One. Hit! (Once Verizon Wireless has it, I'm there.)
I flip around looking for other Google ads. Natural skin care. Miss. (The Google must've seen me looking up skin rash medications. No, no, really, it's not that kind of a rash.) War on the Dollar Exposed! Miss. (The Google has probably been reading my emails complaining about government bailouts for everyone except >Me<.)
Of course, your results may vary.
Here's the score:
Salon sales reps: Zero.
Pulse 36C: Zero.
The Google AdSense: One. And some scary insights.
OK the Google probably isn't feeding me ads based on my emails. Yet. Google ads still have a long way to go. But as imperfect as they are, Google ads collected $9 BILLION from advertisers in the third quarter of 2009.
Think how much better it will get as the Google learns more about me. But online pubs and most other web sites ain't even in the game, 'cept for a few AdSense ads stuck in the corner.
What we NEED for 2021:
Google should team up with some pubs, analyze where their readers go within that publication, use that data to figure out each reader's interests, add its other creepy magic tricks, and feed the readers great ads that actually interest them.
The technology is there. Why aren't we? We just need some smart journalist to make it happen.
Who says there's no future in advertising for online journalism?
Oh yeah. Rupert Murdoch.
Well, he can't live forever.
(Special Advertising Section:)
"chockfull of new insights about one of the world’s most thoroughly scrutinized companies!"
As we enter a new year and, full of hope, crawl toward a better year than the one that brought many of us to our knees, I thought it would be good to stop and think for a moment about what it means to be an entrepreneur.
I take my example, of course, from the two most successful entrepreneurs in the world Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Despite the cynics (and I'm usually among the most cynical), and despite an arrogance born of oversized brains and an almost religious belief that they are doing the right thing, they really do their best to build an ethical business. Their model is the one that will prove to be the most successful in the coming decade. Get used to it.
Greed is no longer good. With all due respect to Andy Grove, a man I have always and still do admire, is a life built around greed and fear really worth living? The most fascinating thing to me is the irony that, in what has become the most hyper-competitive business climate the world has ever seen, greed and fear are no longer the best motivators for success.
Consider that when they were still at Stanford, Larry and Sergey wanted a search engine to be a non-profit. Scoff it you like (the folks at CNBC did when I mentioned this on-air) but it is absolutely true. They did go commercial, but when they did it, they did it on their own terms.
Neither men came from families with capitalist roots. Academia, not entrepreneurship, was the families' prominent aspiration. Certainly, when Larry and Sergey went to Stanford, they had a strong entrepreneurial leaning.
So how did two nerds with no business experience create such a successful company? Quite simple, really. They decided to ignore Wall Street.
In today's world, almost any CEO of a public company will tell you that his or her primary constituency is the shareholder. Larry and Sergey had a radical idea: What if your company was actually dedicated to making a great product, something that makes the world a little better? And what if you considered your customer to be your boss?
Every time they faced a business decision that would either benefit the users or increase revenues, they chose the users (and consider the fact that these were not even "customers," since Google's revenues come from advertisers, not users.) They even favored the customers over advertisers when it seemed as though the decision would reduce revenues and profits. If that makes you nervous, do not buy Google stock.
That is what being an entrepreneur should be all about. Larry, Sergey - and Craig Newmark, for that matter - show that the right approach to business can do more than bring wealth, it can bring contentment, a sense of satisfaction, a sense of self-worth. Now compare that to greed and fear.
That is not to say that wealth is bad. I wish I had some. But as it happens, these ideals turn out to be the surest path to success. This is the most hyper-competitive business environment the world has ever seen, thanks to the Internet. It's reducing old industries to rubble and rebuilding new versions from the wreckage -- sometimes way too slowly (I know; I'm a journalist.)
The only way to compete in that environment is to return to basics: Products built with the most intense passion, designed and sold with the highest regard for the customers, created for the sake of the product itself, not for the wealth it brings.
The new opportunities the Internet brings make this approach essential. Why does Google get into so many new businesses -- a smart phone called Nexus One, or a new tablet PC with free software, for example? Because the computer industry and the wireless industry are being destroyed by their own greed! Two-year lock-ins, extra charges for text messages that cost the wireless carriers zero, software that costs hundreds of dollars; these industries are full of inefficiencies and over-pricing that the Internet renders obsolete. And that means (as it always does) new opportunities for smart, savvy entrepreneurs with a new approach.
In a world of near-frictionless capitalism, where every company, product and service is at the tip of those fingers tapping on a keyboard, why would customers choose anything less?
(SEE ALSO MY POSTING ON NON-EVIL LESSONS FROM GOOGLE.)
On its march to world domination, has Google come to a fork in the road and taken the corporate path more traveled? The one that leads a giant corporation to arrogance, monopolistic practices, disregard for competitors (and the welfare of whole industries), and just plain evilness?
To many, Google's power and size have turned it into the old Microsoft, while the new Microsoft has become the poor underdog fighting the good fight against the Google monopoly. Google is abusing its power, poking its Snidely Whiplash nose into our personal Internet transgressions, monitoring our phone calls, stealing copyrighted books for its own gain, destroying the journalism business, censoring search results in China, and even dodging taxes in the UK.
But I've got a problem with all that. Now, here's my confession. Please don't judge me too harshly. So far, I'm not worried about any of this.
And it bugs me. Everyone thinks I'm too soft on Google. It has absolutely ruined my reputation as a hard-hitting, skeptical, curmudgeonly, Snidely Whiplash-ish journalist. Those were the days.
So I need your help. Please help me regain my bad reputation.
I'm looking for feedback. Is Google evil? I'm holding a contest at RichardLBrandt.com for the best examples of kindness or evil deeds by Google and the best opinions on why Google is/isn't the meanest thing to come along since Dick Cheney.
I'm really giving out prizes for this one. Good stuff! Books! The first 10 people to post comments -- whether you think Google is good or evil -- will get a free, autographed (with effusive praise of your wit and wisdom) copy of the extraordinary new book, "Inside Larry & Sergey's Brain" (a book about the founders of Google). Although it does not say "Google" anywhere on the cover, it is indeed about the Google founders. You know, Larry and Sergey. Page and Brin. Some people don't know that. Talk to the publisher about it.
But wait! There's one more incentive: The person with the most interesting response -- whether it's 'Good Google' or 'Evil Google' -- will get free autographed copies of both "Inside Larry & Sergey's Brain," (a book about the founders of Google) AND Ken Auletta's book, "Googled: The End of the World as We Know it." It takes much longer to read and doesn't have the snazzy writing of "Inside Larry & Sergey's Brain," (a book about the founders of Google) but you get more pages for the money.
Go to RichardLBrandt.com to enter and to vote on the winner. Please! You'll get more background on this issue, including perspective ongoogle, evil, don't be evil, microsoft, snidely whiplash, henry blodget, search, search advertising, server advertising, adwords, adsense, admob, censorship, android, nexus one, verizon, t-mobile, netbook, google netbook, british taxes, open source software, china, opinion, inside larry & sergey's brain, googled: the end of the world as we know it, ken auletta, google contest, don't be evil contest, dick cheney, and chopped liver.
admob, adsense, adwords, android, british taxes, censorship, china, chopped liver, dick cheney, don't be evil, don't be evil contest, evil, google, google contest, google netbook, googled: the end of the world as we know it, henry blodget, inside larry & sergey's brain, ken auletta, microsoft, netbook, nexus one, open source software, opinion, search, search advertising, server advertising, snidely whiplash, t-mobile, verizon
A reviewer on Huffington Post thinks my book on Larry Page and Sergey Brin did not have "greater skepticism toward the self-proclaimed ethical motivations of Google's founders." http://bit.ly/6HAJrs
I rather expected this. I'm generally a skeptical reporter, and was dismayed myself that I couldn't be more critical. But being critical for it's own sake is bad journalism, and I couldn't find another reason to justify it.
I've researched all criticism of Google I could find, and cannot find any persuasive arguments. They're all based on the fact that Google is now Big Business and cannot be trusted. Google is now suspect because it has been too successful.
Google collects an enormous amount of information on us, and that scares people. But nobody can point to a single instance where Google has abused that information. Google is a monopoly, and people are afraid it will abuse that monopoly. Again, point me to an example. Google Books is bad because it adds to the monopoly, even though Google is spending up to $125 million to get rights to books that we would never see otherwise, and making them available.
The most evil thing Google did was enter China, counter to its own stance against censorship. But I can't see that that has made censorship worse in China.
Google is acting as a catalyst to try to change industries that are inefficient and greedy. Wireless carriers, software companies, email producers, Internet portals. In every case it has helped open up these industries.
Larry and Sergey are the most ethical corporate executives I have met in 25 years of business reporting. They are a breath of clean air in a business climate polluted by too much greed.
I'm happy to reconsider my opinion. Just point me in the right direction.